It seems like every time you turn around there’s another gloomy story of “retail’s apocalypse.” While it’s true that brick and mortar retail is facing an array of challenges right now, change isn’t a new thing in retail. In fact, retail is one of the most adaptable industries, which is why it’s had so many reincarnations over the years.
Even so, with the ongoing upheaval that’s hitting the industry, there’s no doubt about it: There will be casualties. But there will also be retail on the other side of this. To be part of that group, adaptability—at the organizational, leadership, and customer-facing levels—is critical.
With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about how adaptable your particular store, district, or region is.
Clarity is Power
The first step is to evaluate where your organization is in your market. Ask yourself, your employees, your team, and even your leaders:
Who are we serving?
What are we trying to do?
If you can’t consistently answer those questions right away, then your business can’t succeed long term. Clarity is power, and focus is what you need to get your organization moving forward.
Think about why your customers choose to be there. It’s not usually price. And this isn’t just about differentiation—differentiation isn’t the primary issue in many segments anyway. Even if you have competitive parity in pricing, selection, and other areas, there’s still one very simple truth that’s easy to overlook but essential to remember in a world where e-commerce continues to transform the playing field: People have to like going in to your stores.
There’s a reason so much emphasis today is on customer experience. In many cases, people don’t literally have to go to your store to make the purchase; they’re making a choice to do it. But the customer experience emanates from more than just the physical manifestations of that experience. Beyond price, selection, and other differentiators, many retailers struggle and ultimately fail because they lack meaning. You can’t engage employees to build a compelling customer experience if you don’t have clarity of purpose. Get crystal clear about who you’re serving, what you’re trying to achieve, and what makes someone want to come into your store. Then you’ll be able to get an accurate gauge of how well positioned you are to meet the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s customers.
Flexing to Different Roles
At the leadership level, flexibility is key as well. We talk about the importance of being able to flex leadership roles. With more on the line in the physical stores, this is even more critical. When there are fewer people on the sales floor, store leaders have to not only be able to boost productivity levels but also skillfully coach, develop and nurture associates in the moment as the demands on their abilities continue to heat up. Exceptional interpersonal skills are arguably more important for today’s retail salespeople than they ever have been. And that means store leaders need to be able to engage and empower their associates to meet new customer experience expectations.
Finally, sometimes adaptability is about changing mindsets. If you find yourself complaining about the new directions in the industry or something like the habits of Millennial shoppers, consider shifting your perspective. Instead of complaining, ask:
What are their needs?
What can we do to shift to meet those needs?
How can we adapt and get out in front of these issues?
What have we (or I) been doing for the past X number of years that doesn’t fit any more?
What new skills or behaviors do we need to adopt and emphasize to stay ahead?
Retail is changing, but it’s not going away. And unlike many industries, retail can spin on a dime. With clarity, focus, and adaptability, you can get ahead of the trends.